Posted by: happyfan08 | January 12, 2010

2009 Awards (2 of 12): Best Korean Confrontation

Best Korean Confrontation

And the Winner Is: So Yeon Ryu vs. He Yong Choi, Doosan Match Play Finals

This award wasn’t even close.  The battle Ryu and Choi waged at this year’s KLPGA Doosan Match Play in the final round was one of the greatest in the history of the Seoul Sisters.  The result was a breakthrough for one of the players and frustration for the rest of the season for the other.  And the fact that these two were such long time rivals only made it that much more sweet.

The two teenagers, Ryu and Choi, have been battling it out for bragging rights almost from the moment they both picked up golf in the fourth grade.  They were frequently on the same national teams together as amateurs, where they would often finish among the tops in the individual results as well as leading their team to wins.  Ryu won the 2006 Asian Games Gold Medal, with Choi earning the Bronze.  And both had other impressive results even before joining the KLPGA as 17 year olds in 2008.  That year, both girls collected a win and several other top finishes, but it was Choi who won the Rookie of the Year award with Ryu finishing second.  When Choi won the initial event of the 2009 season, the Orient China Ladies Open, it looked like Ryu would be playing catch up to her rival for some time to come.

He Yong Choi

The Doosan Match Play Championship is the only match play event on the KLPGA calendar.  Choi had nearly won it in 2008, and she proved just as brilliant in 2009, once again reaching the final.  Ryu, meanwhile, had a tougher road.  She was forced to prevail in three sudden death playoffs, but she, too, made it to the final, where she faced her arch rival.  Both had already played one match that day, but that was only a prelude to what was about to happen.

What did happen was an epic that stretched to 27 tortuous holes, nine of which were in a sudden death playoff.  Ryu got an early lead, but Choi caught her with a birdie on 17.  When both parred 18, the match went into extra innings.

It all finally ended on the 27th hole.  Ryu dunked a clutch 10 foot birdie putt, sinking to her knees in exultation (or perhaps exhaustion).  Choi had a slightly shorter birdie to match her, but just missed it, and, after 7 hours and 11 minutes, Ryu was the champion.  It was the longest playoff on tour in more than six years.

So Yeon Ryu

In the aftermath of the win, Ryu went on to win three more events in the 2009, plus the opening event of the 2010 season in December, while Choi has yet to win again.  The win seemed to be the spark Ryu needed to take her game to the next level.  For Choi, it may very well have impacted her confidence in a negative way.  But regardless, the battle wrote a new huge chapter in one of the most compelling rivalries in Korean golf.

So Yeon wins the Doosan Match Play

Other Nominees:

Jiyai Shin beats Sun Young Yoo in playoff, tops Song Hee Kim, MJ Hur, Shi Hyun Ahn and Jane Park at P & G Beauty

This particular event seems to be very good to Korean golfers, who dominated the leaderboard both this year and last year.  Jiyai Shin was well back going into the final round, but shot an impressive 64 to post a 9 under par total, then waited two hours to see if anyone could beat her.  Some of the Koreans and Korean Americans on the leaderboard faded; MJ Hur, Jane Park and Na Yeon Choi were all in contention but did not have good final days.  Sun Young Yoo did have a good Sunday, making several clutch plays late to get into a playoff with Shin (along with American Angela Stanford, who made an eagle on the final hole to join the three way playoff).  The day could have been even better for the Koreans, though; both Song Hee Kim and Shi Hyun Ahn were also playing well and had a shot at the playoff.  Ahn reached the par 5 18th green in two, and an eagle would have given her the title.  But she three putted to miss the playoff entirely.  Kim had been in contention all week, but missed a short birdie on the final hole that would have given her a chance in the playoff.

Sun Young Yoo

The first hole of the playoff featured all three golfers making birdie, including Yoo hitting a marvelous bunker shot to inches and Shin nailing a pitch to a foot.  But on the second playoff hole, a par 3, Jiyai was the closest to the pin, and after watching both opponents miss birdies, she calmly dropped hers in for her third win of the year. 

Best Korean Finish

And the Winner Is: the P & G Beauty

As mentioned in the ‘Best Korean Confrontation’ category, the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship was one of the strongest events for the Korean golfers this year.  Besides Shin and Yoo, who were both in the three person playoff, there were Shi Hyun Ahn and Song Hee Kim, tied for fourth; Hye Jung Choi and Na Yeon Choi, tied for 7th, and Hee Young Park, and Seon Hwa Lee, tied for 10th.  That’s 8 of the top 13 spots grabbed by Koreans.

Jiyai Shin wins the P & G Beauty

Other Nominees:

US Women’s Open

There weren’t a lot of Koreans in the top 8 at this third Major of the year, but there sure were a lot in the top 16.  Eun Hee Ji won it, with In Kyung Kim finishing third after contending much of Sunday.  But Na Yeon Choi, Hee Young Park and Kyeong Bae were tied for 9th, Song Hee Kim was 12th, and Jiyai Shin, Sun Ju Ahn, and Jennifer Song were tied for 13th.  That’s 9 of the top 16 at the most important Major of the year.  And it was quite an eclectic bunch, with LPGA stars, amateurs (Song) and KLPGA stars (Sun Ju Ahn) in the mix.

State Farm Classic

Four of the top five were Korean at this one:  the winner In-Kyung Kim, the runner up Se Ri Pak, and Hee-Won Han and Jee Young Lee, who were tied for third.

Best One on One Battle

And the Winner Is: Ji Yai Shin vs. Ochoa for the Player of the Year

It just doesn’t get better than the incredible battle for Player of the Year waged between these two golfers.  I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more about this one again, though, so I’ll talk more about it during a later award.

Other Nominees:

So Yeon Ryu vs. Hee Kyung Seo, KLPGA Top Player

We were blessed to witness a great battle on the KLPGA this year between two players who seem destined to be superstars.  We will be talking about both these young ladies later in the awards, but the two of them made for a very compelling season on the KLPGA tour.  Seo dominated early, and just when it looked like she would be unbeatable, along came Ryu, winning four of five events to take over the lead in the major categories.  Seo then bounced back with several more wins to establish herself as the top gun on tour.  But don’t look now, for the first event in the 2010 season ended with Ryu beating Seo in a playoff.  Looks like the rivalry is just getting warmed up!

Hee Kyung Seo (L) and So Yeon Ryu

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